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Mistake to talk about World Cup deals: Temarii

FIFA executive committee member Reynald Temarii acknowledged on Sunday he made a mistake talking with undercover reporters about deals for his World Cup hosting vote, but defended his own integrity.

sports Updated: Oct 18, 2010 15:57 IST

FIFA executive committee member Reynald Temarii acknowledged on Sunday he made a mistake talking with undercover reporters about deals for his World Cup hosting vote, but defended his own integrity.

Temarii told AP that he met FIFA president Sepp Blatter earlier in the day to ask him to launch an ethics investigation, after the London Sunday Times filmed him saying he wanted NZ$3 million ($2.3 million) to fund a football academy in Auckland, New Zealand.

FIFA's independent ethics panel is scheduled to discuss his case on Wednesday, the Oceania Football Confederation president said. "I'm confident about my integrity but I made a mistake by talking in that way," Temarii said in an interview at a Zurich hotel. "I asked the FIFA president to investigate. I gave him a letter. It's important for me that the ethics committee investigates how I manage my relations with bidders."

Blatter has promised an "in-depth investigation" into allegations that Temarii, from Tahiti, and Nigerian FIFA executive member Amos Adamu offered to sell their votes in a poll scheduled Dec. 2 to decide which countries will host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.

In an open latter to his colleagues on FIFA's 24-man executive panel which will choose the hosts, Blatter said the Sunday Times' allegation is a "very unpleasant situation" for football's governing body.

"The information in the article has created a very negative impact on FIFA and on the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups," Blatter said.

Temarii, who joined the executive committee when elected to lead world football's smallest region in 2004, declined to give details of his meeting with Blatter at FIFA headquarters. He will return early Monday to chair a meeting of FIFA's Technical and Development Committee that Blatter is expected to address about improving refereeing standards at the World Cup. "Life is still going on," said the 43-year-old Temarii, a former professional player in France. "It's up to the ethics committee to judge me and my integrity."

Blatter said the investigation will be conducted by the ethics panel working together with secretary general Jerome Valcke, but made no mention if the Dec. 2 poll could be delayed for FIFA to conduct its probe.

Chuck Blazer, the American member of FIFA's executive committee, said he did not think the vote in Zurich would need to be postponed. "We should deal with it within the timeframe established," Blazer said. "We want to keep the issues separate and it's important we conclude the World Cup decision. There is no reason why we shouldn't. The investigation can be done right away." The Sunday Times reporters filmed Adamu and Temarii asking for money to fund projects while posing as lobbyists for a consortium of American companies who wanted to help bring the World Cup back to the United States. No money changed hands.

"The Sunday Times report today makes it clear, but it bears emphasis and repeating, that the USA Bid Committee had zero involvement with any aspect of the reporting that resulted in this story," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, chairman of the USA Bid Committee, said in a statement to The AP. "This is a matter that is totally under the governance of FIFA, and therefore we will have no further comment."

FIFA said in a statement it has asked the newspaper for "all of the information and documents related to this matter." "FIFA and the FIFA ethics committee have closely monitored the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups and will continue to do so," world football's governing body said in a statement.

Bidding alongside the U.S. for 2022 are Australia, Japan, South Korea and Qatar. There are four European entrants in the 2018 race: England and Russia as well as joint bids by Belgium-Holland and Spain-Portugal.

Adamu was filmed telling reporters in London that he wanted $800,000 to build four artificial football pitches in his home country of Nigeria.

Adamu told the reporters he wanted the money paid to him personally, saying: "Certainly if you are to invest that, that means you also want the vote."

When the deal was sealed in Cairo last month, the U.S. was still bidding for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, but it announced on Friday that it was withdrawing from the contest for the earlier edition.

Adamu had offered a "guarantee" that he would vote for the Americans in the 2018 vote, but said they would be his second preference in '22.

"I've already given my word to some other bid," he was heard saying on The Sunday Times website.

The Sunday Times, which published videos on its subscription-based website, says Temarii also said backers of two other unnamed bidding countries had offered the FIFA vice president $10 million to $12 million to his Oceania confederation. The confederation's website includes a profile of Temarii which notes he "has facilitated groundbreaking agreements with a number of key partners including the European Union and Australian Government that have seen millions of dollars injected into grassroots initiatives over the past few years." New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum says he was aware of plans to build a training facility in Auckland, but said his organization had no connection with Temarii's reported comments. "We are not involved at all," van Hattum was quoted as saying Monday in the New Zealand Herald. "It is an Oceania Football Confederation matter."

The Oceania Football Confederation's New Zealand representative Fred de Jong said he was "very surprised" by the allegations against Temarii.

"I don't know the whole context so it's difficult to pass judgment. But I know Mr. Temarii and he's a great guy," de Jong told New Zealand's Radio Sport.

The Sunday Times said it was advised about how much they should offer as bribes by two other FIFA officials, who formerly represented the Confederation of African Football on the executive committee.

Referees' committee member Amadou Diakite from Mali said they should offer about $1 million.

Slim Aloulou, the Tunisian chairman of FIFA's disputes resolution committee, said they should not pay "peanuts," suggesting bribing members 1 million pounds each.

FIFA's code of ethics requires that officials "respect the significance of their allegiance to FIFA, the confederations, associations, leagues and clubs and represent them honestly, worthily, respectably and with integrity."

Article 4.3 states that "officials who do not comply with this code or severely fail to fulfill, or inadequately exercise, their duties and responsibilities, particularly in financial matters, are no longer eligible and shall be removed from office." The 57-year-old Adamu joined FIFA's executive committee in 2006, succeeding Botswana's Ismail Bhamjee who resigned after a ticket scalping scandal at the World Cup in Germany. Bhamjee admitted selling 12 tickets for the England-Trinidad and Tobago match for three times their face value.

First Published: Oct 18, 2010 10:31 IST